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Dave Rowntree channels clear creativity and worldliness on Radio Songs

"Radio Songs"

Release date: 20 January 2023
Dave Rowntree Radio Songs art
18 January 2023, 00:00 Written by Tallulah Boote Bond

Radio Songs is a stirring album, new in its sound, whilst still sailing on the musical waves of Dave Rowntree's Blur drummer day job .

Rowntree balances mournful and magical as he travels through loneliness and nostalgia, each track bookended by static noise. Radio Songs feels like a life-time album, each song evoking a memory, to create a world in which we are safe to “dream a dream of yesterday”. It’s effectively a love letter to radio, and how “it’s been one of the steadying factors in (his) life”.

Needless to say, the songs are molded around fascinating rhythms, like Rowntree is experimenting with non-western drum-patterns, and grounding them in a familiar world. “Devil’s Island” was released first as a single, and comes as no surprise that it’s possibly the most effective and commercial song on the album. It has an almost Scandinavian tribalistic percussion layered on top of an electronic foundation. With refraining lyrics like “Roar like lions cry like lambs”, it’s eerie and adventurous, as sensitively experimental as Alt-J’s "Hunger of the Pine".

At times, the dramatic melancholy takes over a little, but it comes as no surprise after Rowntree’s notable work on high-profile television thriller soundtracks (and the 2018 Bros documentary Bros: After The Screaming Stops). In “1000 Miles”, he tries “to reach out to touch you but I’m a thousand miles from home” in “the loneliness of sleep when we’re together in our bed”. It’s a heartbreaking lyric, and although never before a singer, his clear and inviting vocals are full of empathy and haunt the speakers long after the album has played out. He’s still finding his voice, but as a self-confessed Nomad, that comes with the territory.

Radio Songs sits in the near distance like a cityscape; open, diverse and waiting to be explored. Certain songs have a poppy production, like “London Bridge”, which despite having the same naïve quality as the nursery rhyme, is inspired by an ominous feeling that consumes Rowntree whenever he goes near the area. It’s choppy and moody, heavily contrasting with the final track “Who’s Asking”, which is almost peaceful in an electronic, instrumental way, evoking something between Nils Frahm and MSTRKRFT.

References to other artists and songs comes surprisingly easily, as Rowntree’s sound has globally penetrated the music industry throughout the years. Whether he is the influencer or the influenced, there’s such a clear creativity and worldliness in his music, that Radio Songs should be listened to multiple times to really get the depth of where he’s taking his sound.

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